Chesterfield Champions have welcomed the lifting of Covid restrictions, although some with a note of caution, following Monday’s announcement that, subject to a final review of the data, legal restrictions will end on Monday 19 July.
The lifting of the remaining lockdown restrictions is expected to further boost the local economy. Most recently East Midlands Chamber (Derbyshire, Nottinghamshire, Leicestershire) Quarterly Economic Survey for Q2 2021, State of the Economy Index showed its highest score since Q3 2018. The score has replaced hopes for a steady recovery post pandemic to big growth expectations for the region.
Cllr Kate Sarvent, Chesterfield Borough Council’s cabinet member for town centre and visitor economy, said: “Like town centres up and down the country, it’s been an incredibly difficult time for our businesses – as well as the wider community. But Chesterfield is a resilient place and we have some truly inspiring independent businesses. By continuing to work really closely together, and with our partners like East Midlands Chamber and Destination Chesterfield, we’re confident in our town’s ability to bounce back from the impact of the pandemic.”
Dom Stevens, Manager of Destination Chesterfield added: “It’s been a long hard road for many Chesterfield Champions, but light is finally at the end of the tunnel. What we have seen during this time is what a tightly knit, resilient and supportive business community there is in Chesterfield and North East Derbyshire and I am very much looking forward to seeing people within it face-to-face at our events going forward.”
Destination Chesterfield is hosting its first in-person event in 16 months on Wednesday 7 July, when it hosts the judging for the Food Producer of the Year award at Casa Hotel for the 2021 Love Chesterfield Awards.
Venues, including hotels, theatres and training providers, have particularly welcomed the lifting of restrictions which will enable them to return to full capacity 16 months after the pandemic started.
John Croot, Chief Executive at Chesterfield FC is looking forward to the team’s ground once again being full. He said: “We are delighted to hear that the restrictions will be lifted. People have been waiting for this news for so long.
“We are looking forward to welcoming everyone back to the Technique Stadium. We have a number of events in our hospitality lounges over the next few months and it will be great to see the rooms full again.”
Lotty Hawkins, Assistant Manager at Matlock Farm Park echoed John saying: “We‘re looking forward to seeing the children’s delight when they first go the play centre – it’s going to be lovely having the building filled with children’s voices again.”
East Midlands Chamber Chief Executive Scott Knowles commented: “While the hospitality industry is enjoying a great summer bounce back, it has still been severely held back by capacity limits that have also affected the leisure and events industries.
“So there will now be a lot of excitement in the countdown to 19 July, when we sincerely hope the Government will indeed go ahead with stage four of its roadmap to reopening our economy and lift almost all the remaining restrictions.”
Fiaz Sadiq, Managing Director for ActionCOACH Chesterfield: “It’s great to hear from the Prime Minister that the easing of restrictions will be lifted from Monday 19 July, it’s a very positive and welcomed decision that we feel everyone was hoping for! Particularly, small independent businesses, as we’ve seen first-hand the devastating effects that this pandemic has caused, and the real struggle for so many!”
Rose Cottage Doggy Day Care is amongst the raft of businesses that have been impacted by the restrictions. Dawn Brown, owner of Rose Cottage Doggy Day Care explained: “The lifting of the restrictions will enable me now to hold an open day to showcase our services to new and old clients. We look after people’s fur babies and not being able to show them around has limited the number of new clients sending their dogs to us. Luckily our reputation has been enough for most clients to send their pooch without looking around but it will be great when we can organise viewings again.”
Suppliers and service providers to the hospitality sector are equally excited to see the lifting of restrictions. John Smith, Director at Accountancy Recruitment Group, said: “Our market has been very busy throughout the pandemic but the changes from the 19 July should, in particular, see a positive bounce-back for our clients across hospitality and leisure sectors.”
Chris Sellars, Chief Executive of bridge finance company Bridge Help agreed saying: “I believe we will see increased investment in commercial property, particularly in the hospitality sector, across the country and locally which is great news for the town.”
While the lifting of restrictions has generally been welcomed, a number of businesses, particularly those in the healthcare, beauty and retail sectors in the town centre, have advised caution and requested that customers continue to wear masks if they feel unwell.
Martin Wallis-Keyworth- Owner, Less than Zero Barbers said: “We think it’s now appropriate for people to get back to their day to day lives without compulsory restrictions or mask wearing. It will be good practise though, when people are unwell, to wear a mask wherever possible to limit any risk to themselves and others.”
Theresa Goldsmith, owner of The Goldsmith Clinic and a registered nurse agreed saying: “Throughout covid restrictions we have all practiced very safely and will maintain the high level of cleanliness to help prevent any risk of virus transmission – Covid or otherwise. I hope that people will continue to use their judgement and if they have any sign of any infection, they take the necessary precautions.”
Stuart Chambers, part of the management team at Pavements Shopping Centre: “I hope that people will realise they have responsibility towards others as well as themselves. I will continue with the mask and hand sanitising because it makes sense.”
Lotty added: “I think that most people will still exercise some caution as Covid-19 clearly remains a big issue. However, our visitors have always exercised personal responsibility and we hope that courtesy for others will continue. The advantage of visiting Matlock Farm Park is that we provide such a large outdoor area where people can maintain distance from others.”
Despite some nervousness remaining about Covid, many businesses who have adopted homeworking during the pandemic are looking forward to a return to the workplace for both staff and customers.
Scott Knowles added: “Dropping homeworking guidance for office-based businesses is another important step in our return to normality. While we expect the future of work to be a hybrid between the office and home where this is possible for some, the majority of businesses we represent have told us the office will remain a key part of their organisations – especially for younger employees who benefit from working alongside more senior colleagues and have perhaps felt more socially isolated during the pandemic.”
Lisa Stones, Director, Mortgage 1st said: “The one thing we are looking forward to the most is being able to get together as a team. We have advisers all over the county and have missed spending time together both for business and pleasure. We have a party planned later this month for the whole team so we can celebrate and raise a glass to everyone’s hard work and dedication over the last year and a half.”
Kerry Bentley, Managing Director at DBC Training added: “Our delivery centres re-opened to learners in March with appropriate social distancing and covid-secure measures in place, however, many of our learners have continued to engage in online and remote learning. As restrictions are lifted, we hope to see an increase in public confidence in attending classroom-based learning and we are looking forward to welcoming more people into our Chesterfield delivery centre.”
Despite some trepidation about restrictions being eased, businesses are optimistic for what the future holds for both them and the town.
Fiaz Sadiq added: “Now that restrictions are lifting, owners can really start to work on the plans they had for the future of their business, which will in turn will help with the regrowth of this thriving and beautiful little market town, and we can’t wait to see how it bounces back.”
Laura Jo Owen, Owner of Adorn Jewellers said: “We’re looking forward to weddings going ahead. Many of our wedding ring customers have had to postpone their celebrations and are excited to celebrate with friends and family later this year. Coupled with the lockdown proposals, it’s set to be a great year for weddings and we’re so looking forward to meeting more couples and creating their dream wedding rings.
“Lockdown hasn’t dulled our sparkle and now we’re looking forward to shining brightly with our lovely family, friends and customers in Chesterfield.”
Cllr Sarvent added: “The borough as a whole is benefitting from a £1bn growth programme which is bringing forward new jobs and opportunities for local people. Likewise, our town centre is not standing still. We’re investing in significant town centre developments and improvements including the new Northern Gateway Enterprise Centre, work on Elder Way and plans to revitalise the market.
“Enquiries from businesses wanting to start, grow or relocate in Chesterfield are on the rise, and early indications show that the number of people shopping in Chesterfield town centre is heading in the right direction, moving back towards pre-Covid levels.
“Since the start of the pandemic we’ve paid out over £48.5m worth of Government grants – a lifeline to our businesses. We’re fully behind our town centre and high streets and continue to have a range of support packages in place to help them get back on their feet, as we move beyond Covid-19 restrictions.
“The council has funded the new Digital High Street project which is helping businesses branch out online, our Love Chesterfield campaign is encouraging people to shop local and has a range of free marketing resources for our independents to use. We also have a dedicated town centre engagement officer who provides advice and support. In addition, this summer we’ve launched a new-look events programme, including our popular specialist markets and at our fantastic arts and leisure venues, all of which are encouraging people back into our town centre, safely.”
There are more than 180 Chesterfield Champions, a network of businesses, charities, schools and training providers who are driving the development of the local economy, shaping its future and showcasing all that is good about the area.
To become a member of the Chesterfield Champions scheme, please visit www.chesterfield.co.uk/destination-chesterfield/champions/sign-up/